Kingston, ON- For the second week in a row, the Brock Badgers had a chance to win the game with regulation winding down. In the national semi-final, for the second week in a row against the Rams, the Badgers had the ball near the end of regulation with the game tied. For the second week in a row, the Rams’ defence held strong.
The Rams took the lead in overtime and didn’t look back, with five straight points from guard Jama Bin-Edward before guard Mikaela Dodig hit a jumper to extend the lead. The Rams’ defence held strong before hitting free throws to win the game 64-56.
The game started tight defensively, with both sides getting defensive stops early. Both teams were unable to pull away with veteran players such as Mackenzie Robinson, Victoria Lawrence, Bin-Edward and Dodig making key plays.
After struggling from three for most of the OUA finals, the Rams were better able to find their rhythm this time around. “We identified some spots for where the openings were both to get into the paint but also to space and find more some more of those rhythm shots for us,” Rams head coach Carly Clarke said.
As the game turned towards the fourth quarter, the Rams pulled into a brief lead before Brock battled back. When it mattered the most, the Rams defence got the stops.
For the Rams, last week’s OUA finals win over Brock provided a learning opportunity going into this one – particularly on the defensive end. Last week, the team relied on its full court press to cause havoc in their fourth-quarter comeback. This week, it was their half-court defence.
“They have a great motion so we needed to up our defensive talk,” Bin-Edward noted. She added the team improved its defence and communication. “I think we did a really good job of stopping the ball in overtime and creating our own shots,” she said.
One of the things Clarke and the Rams players emphasized throughout the game was active hands. “There were times where we were closing out [last week] where we were a little bit flat and we let them get comfortable,” Clarke said. “I thought our length and our active hands disrupted them a little bit more.”
“We were able to get a lot of tips…and making them hesitate when they were trying to drive because you’re able to have active hands in the gaps,” Bin-Edward said.
One of the points of focus was for the players to get their hands up to force Brock to make tough shots. The Rams held the Badgers without a free throw in the third quarter. They also had 13 offensive rebounds to the Badgers’ nine. In overtime, they held Brock to one-for-five from the field as they closed out the game.
Clarke also praised Bin-Edwards’ impact on both ends of the floor. She noted Bin-Edward kept her composure despite missing some shots early. “Her defence is always relentless,” Clarke continued. “Seventeen points, eight assists, seven rebounds. Are you kidding me? Do it all.”
Now the Rams will prepare for the national finals, a chance to win their first Bronze Baby in team history. For Regina transfer Kyia Giles, it could mean a matchup with her sister Kyanna, who she played with her three seasons at Regina and now plays for Winnipeg.
“Honestly, it would be the greatest experience for myself and just to top off my career and play against her,” Giles said. “it’d be nice to share the court with her one last time.”
Meanwhile, Clarke and Bin-Edward noted the team will study film on their opponents and prepare like they do with any opponent. However, especially at this point of the season, the focus is also internal as much as anything. “At this point, you are who you are and its going to come down to who can be better at who they are,” Clarke noted.
“I think personally just focusing on ourselves,” Giles said. “Honestly, just focusing on us. This is a game. It’s like us against us. Focusing on what we do well and just executing that every single time. Doesn’t matter who we’re playing against once we play how we know how we can play.”
Featured Image: Jojo Qian/Rams Athletics